Alexandra Gade

Professor of Physics, FRIB Deputy Scientific Director


Education and training

  • MS, Nuclear Physics, University of Koeln, 1998
  • PhD, Physics, University of Cologne, 2002


The focus of my research is the structure of atomic nuclei
in the regime of very unbalanced proton and neutron
numbers. Short-lived radioactive nuclei that contain
many more neutrons than protons often reveal surprising
properties: Their shape and excitation pattern as well as
the energy and occupation of their quantum mechanical
orbits by protons and neutrons is significantly altered
as compared to stable nuclei. My group uses nuclear
reactions to probe such changes in the nuclear structure.
Since our nuclei of interest are short-lived and cannot be
made into targets, the beam is made up of them. We have
at hand an arsenal of different reactions to probe specific
nuclear properties. These include scattering as well as
reactions that remove or add a nucleon. The experimental
challenge now is two-fold: We have to identify all reaction
residues (particle spectroscopy) and identify the final
state they were left in (gamma-ray spectroscopy).


I grew up in Germany being very fond of chemistry,
mathematics, and physics and ended up studying physics
at the Universität zu Köln where I got my PhD-equivalent
with experimental nuclear science research at the local
tandem accelerator laboratory. I enjoyed coming up with
stable target-projectile combinations that produced my
nucleus of interest at the desired excitation energy and
angular momentum either directly in a nuclear reaction
or subsequently in a nuclear decay. My group’s work
today builds on this, only that FRIB allows us to probe
the most exotic and interesting nuclei possible as we
can use rare-isotope beams to induce nuclear reactions.
We use gamma-ray spectroscopy to characterize the
excited states of the short-lived reaction products, and
the resulting spectra provide fantastic fingerprints of the
quantum mechanical inner workings of nuclei that we can
only study at FRIB.

How students can contribute as part of my research team

The results from our experiments are often surprising and
reveal exciting changes in the structure of exotic nuclei as
compared to stable species. We collaborate closely with
nuclear structure and reaction theorists. Our experimental
input helps to unravel the driving forces behind the often
spectacular modifications in nuclear structure and adds
to the improvement of nuclear models that are aimed to
compute nuclear properties with predictive power also in
the exotic regime. Projects in my group involve the analysis
of new and exciting data, large-scale detector simulations,
hands-on detector upgrades, or a combination of the above.

Scientific publications